November has dawned partly cloudy and breezy with the promise of the first heavy frosts. From the early autumn lack of rainfall and cool nights, our trees have erupted into a bonanza of spectacular colors and the soil is now adequately moist to bring plants safely into the start of winter without the worry of drought. The light frosts of October and even September in northern areas have started to impact our annuals but very soon, they will need to be removed with the onset of colder weather. Even though the weather is becoming cooler, there is still much to do in the Garden!
Things to do:
- For those growing carrots, beets, turnips or Jerusalem artichokes and wishing to extend the harvest into winter, apply a heavy mulch of straw to the crops to prevent the soil from freezing deep and both ruining the crop and making harvest near impossible. Parsley will continue to grow well into December, especially if covered by a basket on particularly cold nights.
- Mulch garlic with a 3-4” layer of leaves to prevent heaving of the cloves.
- Consider setting up a low tunnel and cover it with Agribon fabric to easily extend the growing and harvesting season through December. It is ideal for Bok Choi, spinach and other cool season vegetable crops.
- Remove and compost the warm season vegetables. If you witnessed signs of late blight in your tomatoes, make certain to remove all the foliage and vines of the plants from the garden. It is best to compost them separately if possible and reuse the compost in other portions of your yard.
- Fertilize and lime the lawn – after a soil test! November is the ideal time to develop a proper root system to get your lawn through next summer’s heat and droughts while the soil test will tell you what formulation of fertilizer is best.
- Remove heavy accumulations of leaves from lawn areas. Minor amounts can be shredded and allowed to filter through the grass to the ground. These leaf fragments have been found to be a good source of organic matter and beneficial minor nutrients for lawns.
- Bring in all the hoses and drain outdoor pipes and irrigations systems before the start of heavy freezes later this month. We have had a good rain of late, but should several weeks pass without rainfall, supplemental irrigation is still needed for newly installed plants.
- For Roses, Peonies, Lilacs, Dogwoods, Beebalm and other plants that may have had black spot, powdery mildew, or other foliar diseases, make certain that all the leaves that could overwinter disease organisms, are removed from the base of the plants.
- Shred and mulch your beds with newly fallen leaves – the lawn mower can dual as a good shredder of the leaves, provided they are not too thick. They can be shredded and they serve as great mulch for annual, perennial and shrub beds. There is no harm in mixing in some grass clippings with the leaves.
- Remove frosted or tired looking annuals from the flowerbeds and compost those that do not reseed or make certain the seed heads are removed. Cleome or Spider Lily will readily reseed over the course of the next year!
- Finish digging and bring Canna, Alocasia, Colocasia (pictured at right), and Banana roots into the basement. Divide the clumps and either repot them into a new container, making certain to keep the media only slightly moist for the winter or wrap them in several sheets of newspaper.
- Remove the seed heads from Asters as soon as they finish flowering to prevent self-sowing. Many a pink flowered cultivar will magically become blue flowered as the seedlings overwhelm the desired selection.
- As the frosts become more severe, some perennials that lack winter interest will require cutting to the ground to keep the border neat and tidy. However, it is important not to become overzealous, since many ornamental grasses and perennials provide winter habitat for many of our native bees and pollinators. Others, like Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan) and Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower) are important sources of food for birds like Goldfinches. They can also provide attractive winter outline, as witnessed by the Pycnanthemum muticum (Mountain Mint) pictured at the end of the article.
- As the foliage of Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) turn brown with the frosts, make certain to remove all the brown foliage since the moth of the Iris Borer lays her eggs on the foliage where they will overwinter and cause harm to the rhizome next summer.
- For those with Fig trees, late November is the time to wrap your plants or bring them into a cool basement or garage if they are in a container.
- Finish planting bulbs. Remember, they need to be planted to a depth of 3x the diameter of the bulb. It always takes longer than we think, and some garden centers may offer sales towards the end of the month. For a more mature and impactful display, consider planting several bulbs per hole.
- Continue to weed as time permits! The cool season weeds are flourishing. Getting ahead of them now will help to prevent them from flowering and going to seed come spring.
- Finish emptying clay containers that can crack over the winter and store them in a protected area or upside down and under a tarp if left out-of-doors. For terracotta pots, make certain that the pottery is washed well to remove all the built up fertilizer salts and place out in the sun to ensure that they dry thoroughly before storing.
- At the end of the month, pot up Paperwhite Daffodils and Amaryllis for the Holidays.
- Look over your Garden and contemplate which areas are in need of interest in the form of plants with fruit, form or evergreen foliage. November is still a great time to plant deciduous shrubs and many perennials. In fact, some may be discounted at your local garden center! It is important to mulch your newly planted selections with 3-4 inches of mulch in order to retain moisture and reduce potential heaving for smaller plants.
- If you purchase container grown plants at end of season, check to make certain their roots are not encircling the soil mass, as seen in the image at the right. If so, make certain to tease apart the root ball thoroughly as you plant. This will prevent girdling roots and the loss of plant vigor in the future.
- For the houseplants that you brought indoors during October, continue to monitor them for insects and resist the temptation to overwater! Also, remember to rotate the plants 90° or so every couple of weeks. This ensures the plant will not stretch in one direction towards the light. This is especially true when you first bring the plants indoors, as they are probably still growing and are very prone to grow towards the sunlight.
- Save some interesting seed capsules from perennials such as Blackberry Lily, (formerly Belamcanda chinensis now Iris domestica) and combine them with Holly or Beautyberry (Callicarpa species) for a wonderful Thanksgiving centerpiece.
- Enjoy a Happy and Wholesome Thanksgiving with your family and friends!
Program Leader in Home and Public Horticulture